~with thanks to Ray for showing me the form


Our son sent a photo of our grandson at his pre-school graduation ceremony.  He’s sitting in the backseat of the car wearing a cardboard hat with “2020” painted on in glitter. He looks so happy and proud. I’ve heard there are juniors at the High School here who want to do a drive-in graduation next year, because it is so much more “personal.”


I have seen—has the world seen?—the photo of a black grandfather carrying a wounded white racist to safety. ‘I’m protecting our kids,” he said. Take up your cross and follow me.


I don’t have Big Girl Underpants—mine are all the same—so this morning I put on my Big Girl Lipstick and brushed my hair behind my ears and took the dog for a walk again.


In the late 1880s, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a poem in honor of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez. This is how it ends: 

. . . . . .while there went/ Those years and years by of world without event/ That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door. 


The prayer beads I carry in the pocket of my jeans are mostly wooden relics of my old Camp Fire Girl days. Four onyx beads. Two pewter suns salvaged from broken earrings. A tiny diary key. And an onyx cross, maybe half an inch long.


Ever since that first Gulf War I’ve had doubts about intercessory prayer. What about all those people who don’t get prayed for except in a generic way (Dear God, bless all the people in the world.)?  I pray in a generic way these days. May all beings be free from suffering. At least that reminds me that I’m not alone, which may be the whole point. 


As I walked this morning, I noticed a tiger swallow-tail fluttering along the roadside, parallel to my path. She seemed to be looking for flowers, which are fairly scarce along that shady stretch. She ignored a patch of spindly buttercups, landed finally on a plant I didn’t recognize, and began feeding on what I would hardly call flowers, just nubs of pale greenish white, hanging in clusters at the ends of the leaves.


In the morning I light a candle to warm my room.
Where are the gods my people used to pray?
Bridget bubbles from her white-walled well.
Blood on stone, thorn tree, portal and passage,
Thunder, and the One-eyed All-Father hangs alone.

Luther’s god drowned on the way from Poland
but Nana built him a tower of lilacs and bibles
in this land where Opa couldn’t speak.
Grandpa’s priest-god faded with his oldest girl
and died with the Grandma I never knew.
Mother sang and sang, but the tomb of Jesus
is in a desert very far away.
Dad walked in the woods,
his pockets full of seeds for the chickadees
who landed on his hands and in his hair.

If I watch, will blackbirds make
their holy shapes,
silver flakes against the sky?
If I listen, will blood speak,
the sharp red edge?
If I listen, will thin deer
whisper through the trees?

Red chert point buried
in my valley clay
twelve times one thousand years.
People camped where they always camped.
Deer run where they always run
but the gods of this valley are not mine.
Wind Eagle will not disperse my griefs.
The Padogiyik turn their backs.
There is no one I can tell.
The god of evolution
does not hear
and my mother has gone
too far away.

Beside the parking lot,
the river’s pebbled shore,
an eagle watches from a broken tree.
Chickadee chips outside my window.
Diamond-barked ash
lets go its pointed leaves.
Chipmunks break red berries
from the yew.

I will learn to pray downward.
I will make myself a shrine
of holy names and pine,
find the pool in the forest
where cress grows green
through snow.

I will learn to pray like falling leaves.
I will find my father,
and we will load the wagon with logs and stop
to watch the baby wood ducks jump
from their nest and land
on the leaves below.
We‘ll plant peas and corn.
We’ll let woodchucks eat the lettuce.

I will learn to pray like rain.